Author: Scott Lynch
Rating: 3 stars
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’m developing a bad habit of reading second and third books of series before book one. I don’t always look as closely at series titles as I should; sometimes this habit works out, sometimes it is incredibly frustrating.
When it came to The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, I was fully aware that it was the third of the series when I requested it. I’ve heard great things about the Gentleman Bastards series, and I fully intended to read the first two books before I wrote this review. Things don’t always go as planned, however, and I haven’t managed to get to them yet.
You don’t necessarily need prior knowledge of the series to understand The Republic of Thieves. It took me awhile to get my footing, but once I had an adequate picture of the backstory the novel took off. But I’m still kicking myself, because I think that the things that annoyed me about Republic (and there were a few) would have gone down easier if I was more comfortable with the series.
The plot is complex and dense. On the run from their shady past, thieves Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen start out in mortal danger. Locke has been poisoned, and the only avenue of escape is a sinister Bondsmage called Patience. The pair agree to become pawns in an election game in Karthain as Patience’s representatives, where they are pitted against Locke’s lost love Sabetha. In a parallel, complimentary story, young Locke pines over Sabetha while he and his gang are sent to the city of Espara to act in a play called The Republic of Thieves, which faces one obstacle after another.
There is, quite frankly, a lot going on here. Either one of the plots would have been a novel in and of itself, and while they complemented each other thematically I sometimes found myself longing for a breath (in addition to the two plots, there was also a fairly complete play; Lynch is astoundingly ambitious). Lynch juggles one complicated situation after another, and everything is resolved admirably, which I really respect. The novel was definitely impressive, but not always fun.
So now, to those reasons why this is a 3 star book and not 4 stars.
First, the cursing and general wittiness. I’m quite a fan of witty rejoinders, and I have no problem with cursing in most instances, but in combination in this book they were excessive. Every single character was on all the time, with a pithy remark or a smart turn of phrase. And the types of cursing seemed very modern to my ears. I don’t expect fantasy novels to exclusively use Middle English or things of that nature by any means, but it just rubbed me wrong.
Second, sequelbait. I was having trouble seeing any stakes in a random political game in a city the characters weren’t from and would soon leave, and then I got to the part of the novel that set up the next direction of the series. Which meant that most of the 565 pages (!) of the book, however enjoyable they may have been, were mainly prelude to a story that hasn’t happened yet.
My third reservation comes with a trigger warning and a spoiler warning, though I will try to be as generic as possible. At a certain point, to keep the play subplot rolling forward, Lynch includes a brief attempted rape that leads to a murder. The murder cover-up is incredibly overcomplicated, and the rape and who it involved felt cheap and manipulative. Not to mention the fact that within two days all of the horny teen conspirators, including the victim, are back to having sex with each other. Yeah…no. I just didn’t buy anything related to that development.
So, The Republic of Thieves was not perfect. It was often dense and difficult, and some of the plot choices did not pay off. But I’m fascinated by the worldbuilding, impressed with the construction of the narrative, and still eager to read the rest of the series. In general, I liked these characters and look forward to spending more time with them.